Voice for the voiceless: Renowned journalist dives into HR

Director of O.C. Tanner Institute reveals how a health scare ended her childhood dream and ignited a new passion

Voice for the voiceless: Renowned journalist dives into HR

In her previous life, Meghan Stettler was an award-winning journalist, working for media companies in both Los Angeles and New York City in various roles.

Being a voice for the voiceless was her childhood dream. She did everything right, gaining an education, making connections, honing her craft and pounding the pavement to create more opportunities to advance her career. She earned a dual BFA from Brigham Young University, an MA from the University of Southern California and executive certificates in global business from New York University and Salt Lake Community College.

Halfway through the 2010s, she had reached the apex, working as a producer and writer for the Al Jazeera Media Network. And then one day, while in the New York newsroom, her legs were swelling and her heart palpitations were off the charts. Her colleagues called an ambulance, and she soon flew home to Utah to see a health care practitioner that her family trusted. After a month of testing, the doctor finally discovered tumors wrapped around her thyroid.

“It was like, you have some limited time to go off and be the journalist you want to be, but we need to take care of this sooner rather than later,” Stettler told HRD. “I had worked so hard to get where I got, it was so difficult to be derailed.”

Fueled by her country grit and determination, Stettler made the brave decision to fly to Qatar to continue her work. Unfortunately, her condition eventually bottomed out, as it was challenging to find places to even draw her blood in the Middle East. She returned home and underwent treatment. Luckily, the tumors were benign, but they wreaked havoc on her internal system. It took her about nine months to recover.

During that time, Stettler had a reprieve from the daily grind of journalism: the long hours, constant deadlines and always being on call. That work/life balance isn’t sustainable for a lot of folks, and she enjoyed finally being able to have dinner with her family. Instead of heading back to the city that never sleeps, she dipped her toe in politics, becoming director of communications and international outreach at the Utah Governor’s Office of Energy Development. “Nothing could rival my days in news, but I found the work very meaningful,” Stettler says.

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During that time, she also became the vice president of the World Trade Association of Utah, the state’s longest standing non-profit organization dedicated to promoting international commerce through education, networking and events. As part of her role, she hosted the Women in International Business Conference, which was held at O.C. Tanner. That opened the door for her current role as director of the Salt Lake City-based institute, which conducts workplace culture research and education.

“I’m really driven by impact and purpose,” Stettler says, “How I can add value to the world and share information that empowers people to make the right decisions for their lives, their community and their organization. Any business can be a tough industry, but if you can impact the eight-to-10 hours people spend at work, that is a complete life transformation for them. Being able to champion information uniquely from the employee perspective to help organizations and their people thrive through change and challenge has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

In April 2020, just a few weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic, Stettler began her tenure at O.C. Tanner. The organization sent out pulse surveys every week to gauge how employees were feeling and what company leaders, including HR directors, could do to help mitigate the negative impact of the pandemic. Stettler hosted a webinar series discussing the results, focusing on topics such as frontline workers, remote work, employee engagement, health and wellbeing, workplace culture and employee recognition.

“It was a new challenge for me and how I really got hooked on what we do at O.C. Tanner,” Stettler says. “It was a marriage with my former life as a journalist, when you’re digesting new information, distilling it and understanding how to communicate it to the marketplace. This is a way I can make a greater impact on the world, perhaps more so than I did as a journalist or energy communicator or diplomat.”

In addition to webinars, O.C. Tanner also publishes an annual Global Culture Report, which gathers perspectives from 40,000 employees and leaders across the globe. The goal is to examine the trends, statistics and perceptions that are shaping workplace cultures and see how organizations with strong cultures attract top talent, reduce employee turnover and help employees thrive. As a thought leader, Stettler’s responsibility is to distill the data, put framework around it and create keynote speeches to deliver to various HR audiences.

Her work over the past two years has changed her perception of the department. “From an employee perspective, HR is the department you want to avoid,” Stettler says. “But it’s amazing the amount of heroism that has occurred since the pandemic, seeing people leaders moving, shifting, listening and helping people deliver their best work and live their best life. Putting people leaders at the heart of business decisions will truly lead to better outcomes.”

With the worst of COVID-19 seemingly in the rear view, Stettler is focusing on another challenge: belonging and inclusion.

In 2021, Utah was named the worst state for women’s equality by WalletHub, which evaluates states on workplace environment, education, health and political empowerment. It was the fourth year in a row that “The Beehive State” ranked dead last. Stettler wasn’t surprised – inequality is one of the reason that propelled to seek opportunities elsewhere early on in her career. Now that she’s been settled down for a while, she’s hoping to move the dial for women, providing mentoring, networking opportunities and helping revise the Women in International Business Conference.

“I want to make sure women have a forum where they can meet, network, exchange information and help other women succeed in this arena,” Stettler says. “Trying to elevate those voices and perspectives has been integral. Coming out of the pandemic, we as an organization need to make some opportunities to have women that are primary caregivers re-enter the marketplace and make an impact.”

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